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Adaptation in the school. How to encourage children to share their impressions?

Virginija Rekienė, psychologist of Erudito Lyceum


The beginning of autumn is a special time for school-age children, especially for the youngest ones, as well as for their parents, as it is the beginning of the new school year. Consequently, the beginning of autumn is full of nervous excitement. For some, this excitement is pleasant, joyful, motivating, and full of fun anticipation. However, for some, that excitement can manifest in irritability, tension, confusion and anxiety.

It is natural for parents to want to better understand how their child accepts the changes in life, and how well they adapt to such changes. It is important for parents that children share their experiences. Hearing a child’s story about their first day, or indeed any day at school helps parents understand how their child felt, how they dealt with their emotions, and how much and what kind of help they may need from their parents, or/and teachers etc. 

Kaip padėti paauglio asmenybei bręsti: 4 galimos konflikto sprendimo strategijosAs parents, we tend to shower our children with questions, especially in the first weeks of the school year: how did it go? What were you doing? What did you learn? Who did you play with? How are you feeling? And a plethora of other. It is normal to suggest that we too are curious. Why, because we care. We too experience the excitement of change – not dissimilar to a child.

How to make your child speak?

By asking a child question and getting answers, we understand not only what they did, but also how they felt, what experiences they encountered and how they reacted to those experiences. When children share their impressions and experiences, we feel calmer and more confident. As, being better informed, we feel we can help the child more if and when required. Parents sometimes worry when their child refuses to share their impressions, or when they share the day’s impressions in a laconic manner; very few words of explanation. For example, when asking what they were doing outside, the response might be: “I don’t remember”, “I was playing”, “I was drawing”. Such answers may not allow us to build a picture of their day, subsequently some parents may become worried and seek advice from teachers and psychologists, as to how to talk to their child in order to improve communication. 

There is no right answer that would allow us to understand why some children answer questions we ask them concisely: “I played”, “I drew”, etc. or why they choose to answer “I don’t remember” or some other alternative answer. Perhaps, the child did not want to talk or feel like talking. Perhaps, they simply didn’t want to talk at all, for no particular reason. There may well be a reason – perhaps we are asking too broad or imprecise a question. Or just maybe, there were to many events in the day, and it was difficult for the child to remember exact details: with whom, when and where – after all, one can become overwhelmed in new environments in addition to a number of events, one after the other. 

As adults, we too experience times when we don’t want to talk – not the right time, not the right mood, not the right place, rather have peace and quiet. It is normal for us adults, just as it is for a child.

Our advice to parents is simple: remain empathetic, curious, and avoid interrogating the child.

Understanding and compromises

By encouraging the child to share experiences regarding their day at school, it would make sense to explain to the child why we (as adults and parents) are interested knowing. After all, we don’t just ask ourselves to fill the silence. We (as parents) ask because we are genuinely interested in how our child is managing school. We suggest is worth mentioning the following: “I am asking because I am interested to know how you are getting on, I care about you very much, I love you very much.” Relationships can be very motivating.

When responding to a child’s reluctance to share impressions, it is important to express our understanding, and that we naturally accept the fact that the child does not want to talk. For us, it may be a convenient time to talk, but for a child, it might not be. Perhaps, we should endeavour to remember that the child does not always know, nor be eloquent enough to know how to say that he/she does not want to talk. We suggest you as adults take control by taking the initiative: “if you don’t want to tell me now, I understand. Just say when you’re ready. Do you think we’ll talk about school after dinner or before you go to bed?”. By expressing understanding regarding the child’s reluctance to talk, we clearly demonstrate we respect their personal boundaries.

You can react to the child’s “I don’t remember” very naturally: “Ah, I realize that you don’t remember what you did outside, or maybe you remember what you did in class when you came back from the outside?” Tell me, please, I’m very interested.”

Children prefer to share their impressions when we ask them interesting, playful, and more specific questions, as opposed to general and broad ones, such as: “What did you do at school?”. At the beginning of the conversation with the child, we can ask playful questions that attract child’s attention: “what colour was your lunch?”; “what was the funniest thing that happened today?”; “did you help someone today?”; “did you sing today, or can you teach me the words of the song?”; “did you cut with your scissors today?”; “were you smiling/sad today, etc.?”

Let’s teach the child to share their impressions by recollecting a personal example: “what was the funniest thing that happened to you, it happened to me today…” Our story about what was interesting, fun, or maybe sad happened to us, encourages children to tell us about their impressions of their day.

And finally. It is certainly not the case that whenever we ask a child, they will choose to answer “I don’t remember”. After all, there are other times when the child remembers and willingly recollects. By being aware and taking a measured view we can recognise when a child is ready willing to share their experiences in detail. 

We should remain calm. Focus on the conversation. Ask open questions. Remain clam, take it slowly. Be patient. Remain calm. Carefully observing their behaviour – body language, eye contact etc. In following our advice, you may get to know your child better and discover those special moments, those circumstances and the experiences they have throughout their time at school